The public will get a chance to weigh in Monday on proposed legislation that would require Maine to drop its existing math and English Common Core standards and come up with new standards, and whether to delay any statewide testing for a year.

Public hearings on the bills will be heard Monday before the Legislature’s Education Committee.

Both bills follow an anti-testing and anti-Common Core movement that has been felt nationwide. Beginning in 2009, 45 states, including Maine, and the District of Columbia adopted the standards, and since 2014, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina have dropped them. Opponents say the standards are developmentally inappropriate and part of federal efforts to nationalize education.

A bill last session, L.D. 1396, would have eliminated Common Core standards in Maine and required the state to adopt the education standards that Massachusetts had before that state adopted Common Core. The committee voted 12-1 against the bill, and it never made it to the governor’s desk.

In testimony for that bill, some Common Core critics told the committee that the standards were too high, while others said they were too low.

Rep. Will Tuell, R-East Machias, said he introduced his bill to eliminate Common Core because he thinks the last bill failed in the end-of-session rush, and that he has heard from people in the state who remain opposed to the standards.

“They have concerns that what we’re doing isn’t working,” Tuell said. “I know the students are having tough times, the teachers are having tough times and parents who are helping students with homework are at a loss as well. And when your community is having a problem, it needs to be addressed.”

His bill, L.D. 1492, would revoke the standards, allow local school districts to adopt the pre-Common Core standards if they wish, and require the Maine Department of Education to convene a group to develop new statewide English and math standards, and associated tests, for use by the fall of 2017.

Last year, the Department of Education convened a review panel with two dozen participants, including Common Core critics, to review the math and English Common Core standards. On Friday, a DOE spokeswoman said the review is still underway.

The head of the teachers’ union said members support Tuell’s bill, because they believe the Common Core standards are too hard and not developmentally appropriate, particularly for students in elementary school.

“That is a huge issue for us,” Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesley said. “It’s putting a lot of pressure on young children. Even if they are the brightest child on the planet it will be difficult for them to do because it’s not (developmentally) appropriate.”

Kilby-Chesley said that adopting the Common Core standards has also led local districts to adopt Common Core-aligned textbooks and lesson plans that “are very, very diagnostic and very, very prescriptive and very, very standardized.”

That leaves teachers with little flexibility and forces them to do a significant amount of preparation for each lesson, she said.

Much of the criticism nationwide of Common Core stems from anti-federal government sentiment. Multiple states, including Maine, have either reviewed or slightly changed the standards and renamed them, removing the reference to Common Core. Among the new names: CA Standards (California,) PA Core (Pennsylvania) and Connecticut Core.

DELAYING ASSESSMENT

Another bill before the Education Committee on Monday, L.D. 1459, would delay any statewide assessment for at least one year. The Legislature voted last spring to drop the state’s math and English tests given to students in third through eighth grades and 11th grade – the Smarter Balanced test used by 18 states – after one year because educators and parents said the test was flawed and difficult to administer and take.

In early December, the state announced it would use New Hampshire-based Measured Progress Inc. for new math and English tests to be administered this spring.

L.D. 1459 would make that test optional this year.

Also Monday, a public hearing will be held on a bill, L.D. 1491, that would allow trained school employees other than school nurses to administer emergency medicine for students with epilepsy.

 


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